‘In golden letters on Jinnah’s grave’: Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien counters PM Modi on Citizenship Bill

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySmiriti Kak
Sep 24, 2020 08:37 PM IST

The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday where he said it is the government’s attempt to give a dignified life to persecuted minorities in three of India’s neighbouring countries.

The government and the Opposition sparred in Rajya Sabha over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was introduced in the upper house by union home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien speaks in the Rajya Sabha during debate on Citizenship Bill on Wednesday.(ANI Photo)
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien speaks in the Rajya Sabha during debate on Citizenship Bill on Wednesday.(ANI Photo)

While the Opposition criticised the bill and said it is against the provisions of the Constitution; the government for its part said the bill will offer a dignified life to persecuted minorities from India’s neighbouring countries and does not pose any threat to the Muslims or the minorities who are Indian citizens.

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“The bill that you have brought is an assault on the very foundation of the Indian Constitution, it is an assault on the Republic of India. It hurts the soul of India. It is against our constitution and democracy. It fails the morality test... it is divisive and discriminatory,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said during the debate that is going on without any break in the Upper House of Parliament.

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The Samajwadi Party (SP) took its attack a step further. “Our government, through this Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and NRC, is trying to fulfill the dream of Jinnah. Remember, in 1949 Sardar Patel had said ‘we are laying the foundation of a truly secular democracy in India’. The country cannot be divided on the basis of religion,” SP leader Javed Ali Khan said.

His remarks came shortly after Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on the bill. “I read that PM said this will be written in golden letters. I will tell you where it will be written; it will be written on grave of the father of the nation, but which father of the nation? In Karachi, on Jinnah’s grave,” he said.

The Prime Minister had made a renewed pitch for the bill’s enactment ahead of its tabling in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The bill, PM Modi told his party’s lawmakers from the two Houses, will be written in golden letters.

O’Brien further said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat their mistakes. I want to go back 84 years to two laws passed in Nazi Germany, laws that have an eerie similarity to laws passed today.”

“In 1933, there were concentration camps... in 2018 we have detention camps where, by the way, 60 per cent are Bengali Hindus. In 1935, there were citizenship laws to protect people with German blood... today we have a faulty bill [Citizenship (Amendment) Bill] that wants to define who true Indian citizens are,” he said.

“In 1935 you needed an identity to prove your Aryan lineage... you were given something called an ‘ancestor pass’. In 2018 you need a piece of paper to prove you are an Indian citizen. In 1940 there was a plan to deport Jews... called Madagascar Plan. In 2018 we have the ‘Maha’ Plan, also called NRC,” the Trinamool Congress leader said.

The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha seeks to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Shah dismissed allegations that the bill is biased against Muslims in India. “The Muslims in India are our citizens, they won’t be tortured,” the Home Minister said.

“When Partition happened, it was thought the minorities will get civil rights and lead a normal life, that they will be able to practice their own religion and protect their women. But when we look back, we see what the truth really is. These people did not get their rights. They were either killed, converted or came to India,” Shah said. This bill will give citizenship to all such people, he added.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill just after midnight on Monday amid fierce debate in the House which saw AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi tearing a copy of the bill. Once law, it will make it much easier for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians fleeing Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to become Indians.

The central government says Muslims from these three countries are excluded because they can choose to go to other Muslim countries. Also excluded are other minorities fleeing political or religious persecution elsewhere, such as Tamils from Sri Lanka, Rohingya from Myanmar and Tibetans from China.

The BJP is confident that the bill will clear the Rajya Sabha test too. It is banking on the support of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) - all of which are outside the fold of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). AIADMK has already announced its support for the bill, and so has Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).

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